Yale Researchers: Common cold combats influenza

September 4, 2020 | By Bill Hathaway | |

Influenza virus doesn’t infect airway cells in the presence of virus that causes the common cold. (Image: Foxman lab) Left: Influenza infection only. Right: Influenza infection following exposure to common cold virus.

“As the flu season approaches, a strained public health system may have a surprising ally — the common cold virus.

Rhinovirus, the most frequent cause of common colds, can prevent the flu virus from infecting airways by jumpstarting the body’s antiviral defenses, Yale researchers report Sept. 4 in the journal The Lancet Microbe.

The findings help answer a mystery surrounding the 2009 H1N1 swine flu pandemic: An expected surge in swine flu cases never materialized in Europe during the fall, a period when the common cold becomes widespread.

A Yale team led by Dr. Ellen Foxman studied three years of clinical data from more than 13,000 patients seen at Yale New Haven Hospital with symptoms of respiratory infection. The researchers found that even during months when both viruses were active, if the common cold virus was present, the flu virus was not.

When we looked at the data, it became clear that very few people had both viruses at the same time,” said Foxman, assistant professor of laboratory medicine and immunobiology and senior author of the study.”

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Interference between rhinovirus and influenza A virus: a clinical data analysis and experimental infection study  Link

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